Interview: Ashley Tubb - Sugar Horse
I really like the real average reviews because those are the real scathing ones. I mean I'd rather get a real shit review or a really good review, anything in the middle it’s like pointless. There's a couple of people being like “this is all right, I don't know why all the songs are so long”.
Sugar Horse feels like a very unique entity in the UK scene, from the self-deprecating humour of the bands persona to the mix of shoegaze, the slowest metal in the world and bucketful’s of talent the band regularly enthuses and/or bamboozles critics and listeners. New 13 minute track ‘The Great Shame’ compounds all of that with moments of throat shredding screams, quiet/loud dynamics, pulsing metal and soaring beauty. I caught up with guitarist/vocalist Ashley Tubb to talk about the new track, the new album and avenging the average music review.
(((o))): I think it was the end of February we last chatted and coronavirus was in the news but no one really had an idea what was going to happen. When summing up the interview I had said that 2020 is going to be a huge year for Sugar Horse, far bigger than the year before, so yeah it was my fault [Laughter]. You had quite a lot planned that fell through but we’ll start with the positive, you got the Drugs EP released, how was the response to that?
Ashley Tubb: It was pretty mad, I’m always quite surprised whenever people like our weird little band. I mean its pop music, it’s got like verses and choruses and that. A lot of people called it obtuse in their reviews, I probably agree with that. We always find it pretty weird whenever we get any kind of person liking it or praising it or anything.
(((o))): Was there anything negative that you read?
Ashley Tubb: I didn’t read anything overtly negative, but I really like the real average reviews because those are the real scathing ones. I mean I’d rather get a real shit review or a really good review, anything in the middle it’s like pointless. There’s a couple of people being like “this is all right, I don’t know why all the songs are so long”.
(((o))): A negative came after that in March as the Black Peaks tour was postponed, rescheduled and then postponed again. Are you still scheduled to be on that tour if it ever comes about?
Ashley Tubb: I’m not sure to be honest. They’ve tried to do it again a couple times without a proper announcement but yeah it’s impossible to tell. I think they’re going to just completely hold off now until there’s a set-in stone date for when live music returns, so I don’t know, it depends what’s going on when that happens I suppose. I feel for them though because I think it’s three times it’s been cancelled or something, that must fucking suck but yeah hopefully it goes ahead. I’d still love to do it I don’t think we’re going to get much opportunity to play in front of rooms that big, yeah it would be nice.
(((o))): You have done a couple of live streams; you did one recording and then you did the stream for Arctangent, how did you find those experiences?
Ashley Tubb: The recorded one we actually had recorded mid-February which was a really fucking stressful experience. I thought it was gonna be really fun because we had the idea of kind of recording the start of it like a practice down in that room and then kind of halfway through you kind of go into the gig. Yeah it was good but playing two 45-minute sets within like three hours of each other, my voice was like “uuuuuuuggggghhhhh” by the end of it, it was horrible but yeah it was cool. That room is where guitars were tracked for Drugs so it’s part of the studio that we tracked that record in. Then there’s a couple new songs coming out soon that were tracked in there as well so I thought it linked in a little bit. But yeah it was fun and then it was kind of lucky we had it to be honest so we could be like “this is kind of a gig”.
The Arctangent one was cool. It was all of the shit stuff you normally associate with playing a show like driving a long way, loading in, waiting around and then driving back in the depths of the night, I hadn’t realized how much I missed it [laughter] so yeah that was cool. That was the first time we’d used in-ear monitors and stuff, normally we’ve just got the fucking speakers blasting at us so it’s a bit of a weird experience. I think it came out all right, the actual sound on the stream wasn’t the best yeah but we brought out the U2 cover as kind of like a little YouTube thing for people.
(((o))): That’s the first ever U2 song I have owned [laughter].
Ashley Tubb: [More Laughter] Oh man you’re missing out, don’t let the haters influence you. Seriously early U2 is great, just try not to think about how much of a cunt Bono is.
(((o))): When I was watching the Arctangent stream I saw the big of plastic screens between the band members and I thought “I bet they all travelled in a tiny little car together”.
Ashley Tubb: Yeah we travelled in my dilf mobile, I’ve got like a real beat up like Citroen Berlingo which is our band car, yeah we travelled up in that.
(((o))): Then you’ve got to be separated by big screens…
Ashley Tubb: Very strange, very strange but there you go.
(((o))): Are you planning on doing any more streaming?
Ashley Tubb: I think we’re going to see how it goes, I’d like to and we’ve just recently got together all the equipment to be able to do that which is really cool. We’ve got a couple of releases lined up and I’m going to see what the end of the year is looking like and then we might put something together, we’ve got a couple cool ideas knocking about.
(((o))): You’ve got, what, a 20 minute single (‘The Great Shame’) coming out soon?
Ashley Tubb: It’s around there yeah, it’s like a soundtracky, mashup, pretentious pile of wank.
(((o))): I don’t think anyone else needs to review it, you’ve done it pretty well there. Is that something you’ve had planned for a while?
Ashley Tubb: That kind of came in the middle of lockdown. As I was saying earlier about the couple of average reviews for the record, a couple people have said that it’s too long for an EP. It’s like half an hour or whatever and we were joking around like “they don’t even know what long is, it would be funny to make one song that’s longer than the whole ep and release it in the same year”, yeah so that was the kind of idea behind it. Then it turns out writing a half hour song that’s not tedious as fuck is pretty difficult, so the proper audio version is about 13 minutes I think and then the video soundtrack version is 16 with all the kind of clips and stuff in it.
But yeah, we started off with the kind of long song idea and then Jake who plays baritone guitar and keys watched this documentary called ‘Heart of an Angel’ from 1989 by Molly Dineen. I don’t think at the time it was meant to be deep or particularly meaningful, I think it’s supposed to just expose how tough it is working in a place that’s existed for a century. It was the middle of lockdown and the world seemed like it was on some kind of edge, looking into an abyss and there was kind of masses of change happening and stuff and we watched that and it’s the same kind of thing. That tube station had been open for a century and everything was real beaten up and shit wasn’t working properly. Then you’ve got all of the old white dudes that work in the kind of cushty jobs upstairs that don’t give a fuck, everything’s broken and they don’t care and they just plow on regardless, yet they still moan about everything. Then at the same time you’ve got the people that work underground at night time, basically everyone that isn’t an old white man working down there. For some of them their only job is to go down there in the depths of the night and kind of pull human hair out of the tracks, every night for like 40 hours a week which is pretty nuts. It just seemed like a pretty apt metaphor for what was kind of going on in the world at the time and still is now, so that’s where the idea of kind of gluing the two things together came from.
(((o))): Are you going to send it out to everyone that gave you a review that suggested your EP was too long?
Ashley Tubb: [Laughing] I’m nearly that spiteful.
(((o))): They might keep feeding you new musical ideas of how to annoy them.
Ashley Tubb: I’ve got to keep them basted, you know what I mean?
(((o))): When we talked last time you said you’d pretty much had an album planned out with quite a few songs demoed. How has that progressed?
Ashley Tubb: Yeah quite a lot. At the start of lockdown everyone had lockdown goals and mine was to try and write something every day whether that be a verse or a chorus or just a riff or something. I ended up with about 30 whole songs which is pretty nuts and that’s where ‘The Great Shame’ came from and there’s another single that’s probably going to come out at the start of next year. It ended up kind of pushing a load of the ideas that we had for the album out because they weren’t as good, so we’ve got the whole thing now. In fact, this Sunday just gone we played it as a band the whole way through in practice and that felt pretty good.
The plan is next week we go into the studio to record like basic tracks for it and that’s four days in leads which is why it’s a kind of tenuous. I’ll have to see what happens between now and then but yeah hopefully, hopefully it’ll be all right. We’re going to record in a converted church which is very on brand, yeah I’m real looking forward to putting the songs down. Some of them have been in existence since November/December last year so it’s going to feel good to finally get them official band songs, you know what I mean.
(((o))): What have you done with the songs that you’re not choosing to use, will they maybe reappear at some point?
Ashley Tubb: Well a couple of them weren’t suitable. ‘The Great Shame’ was one of the songs that kind of came out and because that was so long it would have been like Silverfuck’ that Smashing Pumpkins song that takes up like a whole side of vinyl, I thought that should probably be a separate thing. Then there’s another song that’s quite a bit more metal I suppose than the rest of the album itself and it didn’t seem to really fit on there but it is good enough to release, so I think we’re putting that one out at the start of next year.
(((o))): How are you planning on putting stuff out? Are you just going to do it yourselves are you going to look around for a label?
Ashley Tubb: That remains to be seen. I’m kind of like a massive control freak so it’s every time I think about getting someone else on board, I get all anxious and shit. We all don’t earn the most fucking money in the world so it would be nice to have someone at least help out with like a vinyl pressing or something, but I don’t know we’ll see what happens, nothing’s set in stone.
(((o))): Did you manage to get rid of your stash of ‘Drugs’?…EPs, sorry I had to slip in one crap pun.
Ashley Tubb: That is literally what the EP was titled Drugs’ for. But, no was the answer. Got rid of a few of them I think we’ve got about half of them left so if anyone wants to buy one that’d be great [Laughter]
(((o))): Are they just stacked up next to your bed at the moment?
Ashley Tubb: I’ve got a little room, the title of it is ‘my room’ or that’s what my partner calls it. I don’t sleep in there yet, it’s just full of guitars and effects pedals and a computer and our records, very sad.
(((o))): Last time we spoke you said you had quite a few commitments lined up that you weren’t able to announce until after the Black Peaks tour. Were a lot of those gig related that have now been shelved as well?
Ashley Tubb: Yeah, yeah we had a couple shows on the horizon for the end of the year that just can’t happen now obviously. It was just kind of headlining stuff like a Bristol thing and a London thing and there was a charity show as well that we were supposed to do that was right on the cusp but yeah none of that can happen.
(((o))): There’s been some announcements for next year, Arctangent have got you on the Wednesday, are you looking forward to that one?
Ashley Tubb: Yeah that should be really cool, we actually had the same slot for this year but it was going to be a last minute announcement but it never got publicised but it’s going to be cool, I’m looking forward to it. I’m not sure if the stage is going to be exactly the same but if it’s the same size it’s tiny and I think it’s going to go off, especially for Saint Pierre yeah it could be fucking nuts. I’m sure Damien will do his front man crowd surfing shit but rest assured that I will not do that, it’s very much standing still.
(((o))): I assume all other gig plans you’re just waiting to see what happens?
Ashley Tubb: Yes, the difficult thing is no one wants to announce any tours because no one wants to cancel them and pretty much every festival has just like taken its line-up from this year and just pushed it to next year so it’s difficult. You can’t really get booked for festivals next year unless you’re already on them this year and no one wants to reveal any tours that they have planned. I don’t know, I saw the dude that books for Download festival, I think he was brave enough to put a proper date on when gigs will be back up which is pretty nuts, what did he say like April 21st or something? With what we are in the middle of now that seems like a brave, brave number.
(((o))): I’ve seen a couple of socially distanced gigs where they’ve got people seated and separated, would you consider playing anything like that?
Ashley Tubb: Oh yeah I’d do that. When I go to shows I fucking hate standing up and I’m not really a very active crowd member and some of my favourite shows I’ve been sat down for so yeah, we’d like that. It’d be great to have the crowd at real amp/cab level as well. Yeah there may be something on the horizon of that elk coming up, it should be cool. I’ve been to a couple they’ve been alright, but I’ve just had shite seats for them, the best thing about it was hearing a kick drum through a big PA again. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed that sound, that was good.